Small business Advice | 18 places to indulge in face-to-face business networking

Networking can be a great way for business owners to meet with new prospects and re-connect with others they already know, offering the chance to build relationships of partnerships, referrals and resources. So, if you’re looking to network with likeminded entrepreneurs but you don’t know where to start, check out  Real Business’ 18-point guide to finding great business networking events.



Small Business Advice | Managing the impact of South Africa 2010

When the first World Cup match between host nation South Africa and Mexico kicks off on Friday, businesses up and down the country will be worried about more than just the results achieved on a pitch in South Africa as football fever kicks in (pun entirely intended). In fact, a more pressing concern for most business owners will be ensuring the attention of their staff is focused on work as well as play. Striking a balance between maintaining a happy workforce and guaranteeing uninterrupted results is an unenviable task and one which may have decision makers across the UK scratching their heads.

world cup

One of the key steps to implementing an effective working programme is getting both the policy and technology right. By sitting down and devising a clear strategy for staff during the World Cup the stress in the long run will be greatly reduced.  


In the first instance you’ll need to think about which line you wish to toe. Be sure to draw up a strategy that best suits the individual needs of your business. If the running of your organisation is built on frequent and tight deadlines or requires stringent attention to detail then this needs to be considered. To avoid schedule clashes, missed deadlines or overlapping holidays you may want to design a rota which can be displayed on the staff notice board or intranet.

If you are concerned about the potential distraction caused by live streamed games, blogs and up to the second team updates then limit the number of sites that staff can access. Draw up a list of accepted sites and set your firewall and security settings to reflect this. Make sure your list of approved sites is communicated to staff so that they are clear on what they can and cannot access.

You may consider allowing flexible working during the World Cup but if you do, make sure you have the right tools in place to support it. If you are planning or allowing time out of the office to watch matches then make certain staff are still easily reached via mobile devices. If a match is being shown in the office make sure there remains a safe space for quiet business and calls to be conducted as necessary.

It’s also worth setting aside time after the first few matches to assess how effective the policy has been so far. The aim is to create an environment that best serves your business, so don’t be afraid to make a few tweaks to the original plan.

So with your policy in place and your staff well briefed all that’s left to worry about is Capello’s boys getting to the final!

Operational Efficiency Starts With a Secure Network

We’ve been writing about a number of varied topics on the blog so far, but today’s post is something of a mantra here at Cisco. Operational efficiency is the Holy Grail for companies of all sizes. ‘Faster, smarter, more adaptable’ – these are the hallmarks of success in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Smaller businesses, in particular those that tend to operate with more limited resources than larger organisations, need to ensure that they are maximising productivity and actively looking for opportunities to increase efficiency. As I’m sure you’re aware, greater efficiency streamlines business operations and can also give you that crucial edge over larger counterparts.

Even though I work for Cisco, it’s surely no surprise that technology plays a pivotal role in achieving this. A secure network that provides anytime access to information and applications increases operational efficiency, reduces costs, improves customer satisfaction and allows you to stay ahead of the pack.

Here are my top tips for using secure network technology as a foundation for business success:

  • Provide employees with secure, consistent access to information: If your company network is frequently down, is slow or unsecured, you can’t expect to get the best from your employees. However, if you have a secure, reliable, self-defending network in place, your employees can have 24/7 access to the information that they need to do their job best.
  • Deliver anytime, anywhere access to mobile employees: Employees in smaller businesses are often more mobile than those in larger enterprises. In order to keep your staff productive you need to ensure they have easy access to people and information on the go. Technologies that enable ubiquitous access include virtual private networks (VPNs), which securely connect remote workers to the company network; pervasive wireless networks – which enable mobile workers to remain connected to the network whilst roaming about an office building – anywhere they need to get the job done.
  • Make it easy to collaborate: Effective, interactive collaboration between employees, partners, suppliers, and customers is a sure-fire way to boost efficiency while also reducing costs. If you start with a secure and reliable network foundation you can look to add integrated voice, video, data and wireless to provide productivity enhancing applications such as interactive calendaring, videoconferencing and IP communications to help foster seamless, easy collaboration.
  • Create effective business processes with partners: Some large enterprises actually make efficient, secure business processes a prerequisite for doing business with them. To develop efficient business processes that meet the requirements of your partners, you will need a secure, reliable network infrastructure.
  • Improve employee retention and satisfaction: The right technology not only increases efficiency, it also keeps employees happy. Nothing is more frustrating than having to deal with sluggish or old technology on a daily basis – and top of the list are old phone systems and slow networks. When employees are limited or frustrated by outdated technology this can easily be projected externally to customers in day-to-day relationships or worse, valued employees can decide to move on.

If you start smart with a secure and reliable network infrastructure and ensure that your technology solutions map to your business objectives, you should be able to achieve substantial increases in operational efficiency. The end result?  Increased productivity, fewer mistakes, happier employees and customers and a higher return on investment.